On new tests, N. Smithfield does well, Woonsocket struggles

On new tests, N. Smithfield does well, Woonsocket struggles

The results of Rhode Island’s newest elementary and middle school assessment were released last Thursday, Nov. 29, and while the statewide results were disappointing compared with Massachusetts, results for individual municipalities in the Blackstone Valley ranged widely, coming in at the high and low end of the testing scale.

Commissioner of Education Ken Wagner said the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System, or “RICAS,” – the state’s newly adopted standardized test format – would give officials an “apples to apples comparison of how we perform compared to Massachusetts, the gold standard for education in America and beyond.”

But the first round of results for Rhode Island’s version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Exam (MCAS) don’t add up to the state’s neighbor just over the border: students in Massachusetts scored 17 percentage points above Rhode Island students in English and 21 percentage points better in math.

Woonsocket

The results were particularly disappointing in Woonsocket, where students had an average scaled ELA score of 478 and an average scaled math score of 476, the third-lowest among traditional public schools in the state after Central Falls and Providence. Only 13 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, compared with the statewide average of 34 percent, while only 11 percent met or exceeded expectations in math, compared with the statewide average of 27 percent.

In addition, Woonsocket schools had among the highest percentage of students “not meeting expectations” in the state, with 34.4 percent falling into that category in ELA and 38.4 percent in math.

Supt. Patrick McGee said he was disappointed in the results but pointed out Woonsocket students showed some growth from the results of previous years’ PARCC assessments. He added the district has seen growth over the past several years on assessments outside of the required state tests, including the Achieve3000 reading assessment and the STAR math and reading assessments.

“It’s about growth,” he said. “As much as I would like to say that we’ll have 75 percent proficiency next year, the reality is that districts don’t make that kind of proficiency growth in one year, but what you want to see is that students individually are showing growth.”

McGee added that teachers and administrators will be sitting down to analyze the data in order to continue growth in the district. He plans to make a formal presentation regarding the results to the School Committee in January, while families can expect additional information on the results from school principals in the coming months.

North Smithfield

Students in North Smithfield performed among the top districts in the state, with an average scaled ELA score of 505, the third highest in the state, and an average scaled math score of 497, the 14th highest in the state. Sixty percent of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, placing the district above the state average by 26 percentage points, while 44 percent met or exceeded expectations in math, placing the district above the state average by 17 percentage points. In addition, the district ranked number one in average growth for both subjects compared with the 2016-2017 PARCC results, though state officials cautioned against making too close of a comparison between the two tests.

Supt. Michael St. Jean attributed the high growth ranking to the presence of subject interventionists at the elementary and middle school levels and added the results help the schools to better identify strengths and weaknesses across multiple standards.

“Our teachers are analyzing the data and adjusting the curriculum and instruction to continue our growth trend and ensure that more and more North Smithfield students will meet or exceed all expectations,” he said.

Blackstone-Millville

One advantage of the new RICAS testing system is Rhode Island border municipalities are now able to directly compare results with neighboring Massachusetts communities. The 2018 MCAS results for the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District, released in September, show a district that performed slightly worse than the Massachusetts state average but significantly better than urban Woonsocket to the south and better than the Rhode Island state average as a whole.

Students in grades 3–8 in Blackstone and Millville had an average scaled score of 497.1 for ELA and 495.7 for math, compared with a Rhode Island state average of 490 for ELA and 487 for math. Forty-four percent of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA compared with a 51 percent Massachusetts state average, and 41 percent met or exceeded expectations in math compared with a 48 percent Massachusetts state average.

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Parents value education in North Smithfield and work hard to participate and pay for it.